Pubdate: Sun, 07 Dec 2008
Source: Times, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2008 The Times
Author: Teneshia Naidoo


Childline Rings Alarm Bells After Three Grade 7 Boys Are Suspended
For Dagga Possession.

Three Pietermaritzburg primary school pupils were  barred from
attending classes for a week after being  found in possession of dagga.

The Grade 7 pupils, aged between 12 and 13, were  trapped with the
narcotics two weeks ago during a spot  inspection by a teacher.

The discovery has shocked the close-knit Northdale  community and
highlighted the growing problem of drug  peddling and abuse by primary
school pupils.

Provincial education department spokesman Mbali Thusi  said the boys
were suspended for a week after a  disciplinary hearing involving
their parents and the  police.

Thusi said the school had acted in accordance with its  code of

However, the boys were permitted to attend school to  write exams
during their suspension.

Thusi said the boys would receive counselling.

The incident has heightened fears that primary school  pupils have
become soft targets of drug dealers.

The director of Childline KZN, Linda Naidoo, said:  "It's been an
emerging trend that we have been finding  in the last couple of years
which shows that primary  schools have been targeted for the dealing
and use of  drugs.

"We have found more and more schools where drugs are  becoming
prevalent. Initially there were issues around  high schools, but we
have been finding it in primary  schools."

She said pupils who were in possession of drugs could  be runners for
dealers in the area.

"Kids don't have the kind of sophistication to peddle  drugs. Children
at that age are not deviant. They are  so innocent and vulnerable to
money and influences.

"Owing to their nature and curiosity and their  susceptibility, people
tend to prey on them to run  these types of activities, and this is
the concerning  thing."

She said parents needed to monitor their children's  behaviour

"If children are manifesting a rapid change in  behaviour, you don't
attribute it to a developmental  stage. It's probably a child who
requires help."

A concerned parent who did not want to be named said  she was "shocked
and outraged" when she heard about the  incident.

"It is so scary what is happening. It's the first time  that something
like this has happened," she said.

She was disappointed that the school had not notified  other

"I intend calling the school to set up a meeting. We  need to know
what happened and what measures, as  parents, we need to take."

Pastor Salvanis Pillay, a counsellor at the RivLife  Community Centre
who works with troubled children, said  it was "worrying" that primary
school children were  being preyed on.

"We need to ask the question: why would a primary  school child want
to search for meaning outside the  security he finds within his
family," said Pillay.

He added that when children did not find acceptance at  home, they
looked elsewhere, which resulted in people  manipulating them.

"This is where the drug culture and the druglords come  in and lure
them and make them feel accepted."
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